The Racing Week That Was 14-11-21

9-11-21

A report into horseracing by the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee has found no evidence that doping regulations fall below international standards. It makes 11 recommendations, including that all favourites and those who finish in the top five of any race be mandatorily tested - using hair samples. At no stage was there any evidence found that the testing regulations in Ireland were anything but the highest possible international standards.
It also calls for a review of the composition of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, to address concerns over a lack of independent membership and gender balance.

The report, drafted by officials on behalf of Agriculture Committee chair Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary, calls on the IHRB to follow governance structures similar to those in the United States. Cahill said: "We're happy that the testing standards in Irish racing are of the highest possible international standards. "There was a lot of comments in the media and to restore public confidence, we felt that transparency was very important. That is coming out clearly in this report. "The IHRB, there's no question that they're doing the testing to the highest possible standards. "But to meet the modern criteria that are there, I think greater transparency was needed. That's where a lot of our recommendations are coming from." "At no stage was there any evidence found that the testing regulations in Ireland were anything but the highest possible international standards" he added.

10-11-21

Rachael Blackmore is to be honoured with the 2021 Irish Racing Hero Award at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards next month. The award will round-off a stunning year for Blackmore in which she became the first woman to claim the leading jockey award at the Cheltenham Festival with six winners, a figure that has only been topped by Ruby Walsh. She became the first woman to ride the winner of iconic Grand National with her success on Minella Times described as "historic" by President Michael D Higgins, "a truly amazing achievement". Blackmore will be presented with her 2021 Irish Racing Hero Award at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards in early December.

Animal remedies that are banned for use in racehorses were seized yesterday following a raid on a farm in Kildare. The raid - led by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine [DAFM] officials acting on their own investigations and information received - took place at a premises in Monasterevin. They were supported by Gardaí as well as Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board authorised officers, including head of anti-doping Lynn Hillyer. A number of individuals were spoken to, among them a British resident, whose vehicle and phone were impounded, along with the banned substances. Racehorses in training with a number of trainers were at the premises.

"An operation was led by DAFM and the Gardaí with IHRB officers in attendance, which led to a seizure of animal remedies," an IHRB spokesman confirmed today. "This is an active Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine investigation, so we will be making no further comment at this time." The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine subsequently confirmed it was part of an "ongoing investigation"."On Tuesday 9th November 2021, authorised officers acting on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine carried out an enforcement operation supported by Gardaí attached to the Kildare-Laois drug unit and officers from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board," said a DAFM spokesperson. "This Department-led operation involved searches and seizure of products as part of an ongoing investigation into equine doping. As this is an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this time." This story looks set to run and run. The speculation that UK trainers hired a private investigator to spy on Irish trainers and this yard raided. As well as potential FBI involvement as regards tipping the Irish Police off about drugs. It really does not look good. 

11-11-21

Fakir D'oudairies was a very smooth winner of the Clonmel Oil Chase for Joseph O’Brien and Mark Walsh. Giving away race fitness to his rivals, the class of the 5-4 favourite nevertheless shone through. He was up against the first two home from the Galway Plate in the Willie Mullins pair of Royal Rendezvous and Easy Game, as well as Gordon Elliott’s very capable Hardline. On the official figures there was very little between all four runners, and on testing ground fitness could have been an issue. But Fakir D’oudairies was a Grade One winner at Aintree last season, as well as finishing runner-up in the Ryanair Chase, and while the handicapper only had 4lb separating the favourite and the two Mullins runners, Walsh was always in total control on the six-year-old. Having taken a lead off Royal Rendezvous until the second-last, Walsh gave his mount an inch of rein and he breezed on by, coming clear to win by 15 lengths.

Owner JP McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: "That was a good performance, he loves that ground and you couldn’t ask for better because the other horses were fit from the summer. He handles those conditions, which is a bonus."He was fit today, but hopefully, he will improve." He added: "This or the John Durkan Chase were the only races he could go for and rather than going for the Durkan, this gives him a bit longer to Christmas now. He’ll have an entry in the King George and the Savills Chase over Christmas. "You could only be pleased with him and we’re delighted."

Dermot Weld's high-class mare Tarnawa has been retired to the paddocks. Three times a winner at the highest level, the Aga Khan-owned and bred five-year-old attempted to repeat her victory of 12 months ago in the Breeders' Cup Turf last weekend, but finished down the field from a wide draw. She will be remembered as one of the best mares of recent years and came agonisingly close this season to winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, one of the very few major Flat races in Europe still to elude Weld.

12-11-21

Day one of the Cheltenham November meeting. Gin On Lime, with Rachael Blackmore aboard, won a barely believable race for the SSS Super Alloys Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, after My Drogo fell at the second-last fence when there was all to play for. My Drogo had just taken the lead when he came down - and Gin On Lime slithered on landing and was close to falling at that obstacle herself.

Blackmore managed to somehow keep the partnership intact, pick the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare up and get her to jump the final obstacle safely. Gin On Lime (7-4) had given My Drogo a good lead through the early stages, with Harry Skelton taking the 4-9 favourite to the outside of his rival to hold a narrow lead at the penultimate fence, where all the drama unfolded. Blackmore told ITV Racing: "She didn't go from left to right so it wasn't that difficult (to sit). It was very strange, a two-horse race, it just shows you that anything can happen. Harry loomed up beside me and I thought he was going to go away from me at the second-last. She was so honest to get up and keep going like that, she was incredible. "Such honesty from her to do that, she didn't put in the best round of jumping. There's lot going on around the place and she wasn't sure where she was going. It was so incredibly honest of the mare to do that."

Elsewhere, Back On The Lash stayed on strongly up the hill to win a thrilling race for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase. After 32 fences and three and three-quarter miles, it was the Martin Keighley-trained seven-year-old who got up in the final half-furlong to land the spoils in the hands of Sean Bowen. Back On The Lash, who was backed down to 4-1 favourite, was never too far off the pace set by Potters Corner and Alpha Des Obeaux - but he was only fourth jumping the second-last fence. Diesel D'Allier, the winner in 2019, led at that point and looked like landing the honours for a second time, only to give way in the closing stages. The race developed into a duel on the climb home between Back On The Lash and Singing Banjo, with the former prevailing by a neck.

13-11-21

It was Day 2 of The November Meeting at Cheltenham. Midnight Shadow claimed the spoils in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham after last year's winner Coole Cody fell at the second-last when leading the field. Midnight Shadow was one of those in close pursuit and jumped the last in front - but he made a mistake there and was all out up the hill to hold the late challenge of Protektorat to land the prize for trainer Sue Smith and Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania.

The eight-year-old was just three-quarters of a length in front at the line to strike at odds of 9-1. Protektorat (11-2 favourite) was half a length ahead of Lalor (7-1) in third, with Dostal Phil (16-1) a length back in fourth place. There was a strong pace from the start, with Coole Cody getting into the lead once the field settled down. Simply The Betts was prominent in the early stages, as was Al Dancer while Midnight Shadow was fairly handy. Paint The Dream took closer order as the tempo increased, but his challenged petered out. Coole Cody looked certain to take a hand in the finish, only to make a dramatic exit at the tricky penultimate obstacle.

Dan Skelton was able to breathe a sigh of relief having watched Third Time Lucki maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the From The Horse's Mouth Podcast Novices' Chase. Sent off the 2-5 favourite, Skelton had seen classy stablemate My Drogo start at a similarly prohibitive price on Friday - only for him to slide to a halt and part company with Harry Skelton at the second-last. There were no such worries this time, although Third Time Lucki was not quite as exuberant as he had been when winning on his chasing debut last month. "Harry said he felt fantastic and that he's a horse with a lot of natural pace," said Skelton, whose charge was left at 11-1 with Betfair for the Arkle Trophy in March and cut to 8-1 from 10-1 by Coral.

Milton Harris improved his already impressive strike-rate for the new season and unearthed a serious Festival candidate as Knight Salute powered home in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. Trained by Andrew Balding on the level, Knight Salute went regressed after winning on his second start – but is now three out of three over hurdles. Upped in class to Grade Two company he was sent off a 9-2 chance, and with Paddy Brennan charting his typically wide route into the straight when the stagger evened itself out, Knight Salute was in front.

Christian Williams’ Strictlyadancer (9-4 favourite) provided amateur jockey Ben Bromley with a first Cheltenham winner when following up his win at the October meeting in the Jewson Tool Hire Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase. "I always thought jockeys were just saying it for the cameras when they talked about the feeling of having a winner here, but now I know what they mean," said Bromley. "It’s hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s unbelievable. "I can’t describe the feeling. I thought I’d hit the front too soon as he can idle, but he didn’t do that today."

At Punchestown, Riviere D'etel ran her rivals into the ground with an impressive all-the-way win in the Grade Two BetVictor Casino Novice Chase at Punchestown. Taking advantage of the weight allowances, the four-year-old filly romped home 21 lengths clear of the 8-11 favourite Cape Gentleman, who was conceding 18lb to the winner. Denis O'Regan made his intentions clear from the start as he kicked Riviere D'etel (9-4) into the lead from flag fall. Cape Gentleman was always in second place, keeping tabs on the Gordon Elliott-trained leader. When it looked as though Cape Gentleman would mount a serious challenge, Riviere D'etel pulled away to win in convincing fashion and back up her chasing debut success at Fairyhouse last month. Top Bandit gave Elliott a double when adding to his Cheltenham success last month in the Extra Places Every Day At BetVictor Rated Novice Hurdle. Leading between the last two flights under Davy Russell, the 2-1 favourite quickly put the race to bed to score by two and a half lengths from Sit Down Lucy. Stable representative Aidan O'Ryan said: "He’s a grand horse and is improving away the whole time. I’m sure Gordon will find something similar for him and his future will be over the big ones."

13-11-21

At Punchestown, Sharjah rewarded Patrick Mullins' loyalty when reclaiming his title in the Grade One Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. The eight-year-old took the contest in 2018 and is a regular presence among the placed runners in the top-calibre hurdle contests, a status that saw him start as the 6-4 favourite. However, he had won just once in his previous eight starts. He faced only two opponents with the late withdrawals of reigning champion Abacadabras and Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso leaving only Gordon Elliott’s Zanahiyr and stablemate Echoes In Rain to challenge him. A faultless round of jumping had the smooth-travelling Champion Hurdle runner-up well placed to take the lead over the last, after which he happily pulled clear of Zanahiyr to prevail by three lengths, with Grand One-winning mare Echoes In Rain a further 12 lengths behind. In my view, this was a really poor race. 

At Cheltenham, Simon Claisse described his 22 years at Cheltenham as “an honour and a privilege” as he enjoyed his final day as clerk of the course on Sunday. Claisse first began working at the home of National Hunt racing in 1999 and has since overseen 20 Cheltenham Festivals – a tenure that has coincided with the eras of great horses such as Best Mate, Kauto Star, Denman, Istabraq and Sprinter Sacre.

Away from the track, Claisse was instrumental in establishing the Tattersalls Cheltenham Bloodstock sales and the Jockey Club South West syndicate, as well as acting as a member of the judging panel for the annual McCoys awards. However, he announced he would be stepping down from the role earlier in the year and on taking charge at Prestbury Park for the final time, Claisse admitted to conflicted emotions. He said: “(I’m feeling) inevitably a bit mixed, it’s been 22 and a bit years – it’s been my life. I felt in the summer it was the right time. I’m still at an age where I can go off and pursue other interests. “I want to reiterate the point I’ve made many times in the last few months – it’s been an honour and a privilege to play a part in not only the development of the racecourse, but the success of the Festival too over that time.”

On the track. Paul Nicholls ended a barren spell at Cheltenham in style as Threeunderthrufive, Yala Enki and Timeforatune landed a treble on the final day of the November meeting. I Like To Move It maintained his unbeaten record over obstacles as he made every yard to win the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Only three runners went to post in the Grade Two affair so it always promised to be a tactical heat, with Sam Twiston-Davies eager to assume control from the off on I Like To Move It, who is trained by his father, Nigel. The 4-6 favourite bowled along nicely in front and while he gave a couple of hurdles plenty of clearance, it was nevertheless a sound round of jumping and his two rivals looked to be feeling the pace turning for home.

West Cork shrugged off a 631-day absence to fend off top-weight Adagio and land the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. Trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by his champion jockey brother Harry, West Cork had to dig deep in the Grade Three feature – but the 11-1 winner had enough in hand to take the £56,270 first prize. No Ordinary Joe pulled his way to the front going past the winning post for the first time and he was still there as the field turned for home, although there appeared to be plenty in behind with their races still to run. West Cork was one of those travelling well and when Skelton asked him he moved up to take the lead jumping the last before setting sail for home. However, Adagio was just hitting top gear under his welter burden of 11st 12lb and he made a fight of it, challenging between West Cork and the game No Ordinary Joe, but West Cork just held on. The Skeltons were celebrating a second high-profile winner on the day after Nube Negra lifted the Shloer Chase.

Nube Negra put down a marker in the two-mile chase division as he registered an impressive victory in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. Dan Skelton’s charge shot to prominence in beating Altior at Kempton over Christmas, but was half a length short in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March – delivering a power-packed finish, but just failing to catch Put The Kettle On. That rival was in the field once again, but she was the first of the four runners to crack this time, as Politologue – himself a former two-mile champion – set out to make every yard of the running in the Grade Two feature. Politologue kept on for second with Put The Kettle On rallying up the hill to take third place. Betfair make Nube Negra a 4-1 chance for next month’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, while the same firm cut him from 20-1 to 10s for the Champion Chase, a race for which Coral go 12-1. I think Nube Negra looks a very fair price for Cheltenham in my eyes.